Yesterday we wrote a post wondering whether or not Glamour had retouched its trio of bikini clad cover girls, also known as Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Brooklyn Decker, and plus-size supermodel Crystal Renn.
A Splash photographer had snapped a few pics of the models on location shooting the cover, and though the images captured weren’t the exact ones used in the covershot, it was quickly apparent that the models looked a little different in real life. Look, it’s not like we’re saying Glamour hacked off a chunk of Brooklyn’s arm, or something — just that the edges of all of their bodies seemed smoothed out, glossed over, and, yes, more toned.
And what struck us most (or at least me), was how good seeing the little lumps and bumps on Crystal and Brooklyn made us feel. When I saw that the cover model for this year’s Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue had a little love handle hanging over her bathing suit, I wanted to jump for joy, throw on a bikini, and skip my way down Broadway. And I’m totally serious. Crystal Renn’s real-life curves felt so much more empowering than the smooth, sheen with which she appeared on the cover. The candid photo made me feel better and made me want to see more.
We e-mailed Glamour for comment after our post went up, and they let us know that editor in chief Cindi Leive was actually in the process of writing a piece on the topic — because apparently our voices weren’t the only ones clamoring for an answer. Leive vehemently denies that Crystal was photoshopped to look smaller — “NO!” was her exact answer — and in reading her response, I realized something.
It’s not about Crystal’s size (or any other model for that matter.) It was about the reality of it. Look, I’m well aware that most people don’t want to see a crappy point ‘n shoot camera shot on the cover of a magazine — that’s not why magazines exist — but how cool would it be to see amateur and, well, crappy photos of these models? Or, barring that, real life and so-called normal people? Because that’s what struck me about the paparazzi shot — not that they looked all that different, but that there was no fancy lighting, no brightening backdrop, no smooth plasticky-looking skin. It looked like the type of picture I would have taken of my friends at the beach — and those models, in all their paid-to-be-pretty glory, well, they all of a sudden looked like they could be my friends.
Leive’s post focuses on the fact that some women felt the cover didn’t represent “every size” — because, let’s face it, as much as Renn may be called “plus-size” in fashion, she’s small-to-average in real life. As Leive put it, “She’s actually smaller than the average American woman, which is one reason Glamour tries to avoid using the ‘plus-size’ model label at all.” And Leive, appropriately, “bristles” at the thought that just because Crystal isn’t the average American woman size of 14 or 16, she’s not real. To her credit, she shoots back, “‘Realness’ comes in all shapes, and Crystal is, frankly, a damn good model; we would have booked her at size 16…or, for that matter, at 8.”
Crystal had some thoughts on the matter as well. In an e-mail, she wrote:
“When it comes to my weight, I understand the public’s confusion. Like all women, I fluctuate…[W]hen it comes to my exact size, in the past I was a size 12-14 and I just said 12; now I am a 10-12 and have to just say 12, because I tend to fluctuate around that number. I find that no matter what I do, there are going to be people who have an opinion; however, my message is as strong as ever….to help women everywhere appreciate their own bodies and continue to be inspired by the images I get to create.”
And they’re right — the Great Weight Debate that’s going on in fashion right now is all about how magazines, designers, and advertisers need to show more “real” women. Well, we’re all real — even the 23-inch waisted models — but we’re not all lucky enough to be photographed by professional photographers, with professional makeup on, and clothing picked for us by people whose job it is to make us look fantastic. And to that end, it was heartening to see Glamour’s online feature of more than 10 differently sized and shaped women posed in bathing suits so that readers can see what “real-life” women look like.
And so, on this particular issue, maybe that’s the takeaway. It’s not about being the right size, or the right shape, but about being what your natural body wants you to be — and it would be really great if magazines and maybe even a cover — just one! — would show that. We’ve seen Jessica Simpson make-up free on Marie Claire and supermodels sans retouching in French Elle, but I’m putting it out there — how great would it be to, just once — and I really mean that, just once — see a supermodel, or even just a regular model, get photographed the same way you and I would do it? With our crappy point n’ shoot cameras, in our real-life lighting, with our real-life attempts at makeup. Because that’s how real women look and live.
Leive’s post will be published on Glamour.com.